Innis & Gunn
Beer usually has 4 ingredients – malt, hops, yeast and water. For us the barrel is the 5th ingredient, our 5th element. When used in the right way, when matched against the right beer style, barrel ageing can create an explosion of flavours and aromas in the beer.
Over the years we have pioneered 2 ways of barrel ageing; one is the more traditional method of filling selected barrels with beer, and the other is an innovative method we developed in-house, in which we actually put the barrels into the beer.
The method we chose depends on what we are brewing and how we want the final beer to taste. Typically the bigger the beer we are aiming for, the longer the maturation it requires; that tends to lend itself to ageing inside a barrel. Our core beers are better suited to our barrel-into-beer technique.
Beer into Barrel
Barrels are selected based on the beer style we are brewing. We check their integrity and then fill them with beer and stack them in our Barrel Store to mature. The Barrel Store is a bespoke, temperature controlled barrel ageing warehouse at our brewery in Perth.
We often mature our limited editions in barrels because they require very lengthy maturations, or because we want to add other things like fruits or hops so that they can be in contact with the maturing beer for a long time, so as to develop maximum flavour.
Barrel into Beer
Our founder & master brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp created a unique process along with designing a piece of brewing kit that we call our ‘amplifier’ which enables us to put the barrel into the beer, turning the process on its head to mature more beer using fewer barrels in shorter time than the traditional method without losing any of the flavour.
Firstly the barrels we select (for example bourbon, rum, Irish whiskey) are broken up into their constituent staves and then up into barrel pieces which we then toast in an oven to open up the wood and develop more of the rich flavours. So far we have discovered 5 different ‘toast’ levels, each of which is characterised by its own unique spectrum of aroma and flavour elements which they can then impart to maturing beer.
We mix different quantities of barrel pieces, selected from the various toast levels, depending on the final beer flavour we are aiming for. It is here that we can really play with the different signature characteristics of each toast level to accent the flavours and aromas that we want.